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29 October 2014

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The Voices Recordings
Interviewee Gemma Barker

Born: 26 October 1984

Lives: Hull, Kingston-upon-Hull

Time lived in area: All my life

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Listen to
Gemma talks about how her mother picks her up on her pronounciation.

Language of interview: English

Duration: 0:015 (mins/secs)

About the interview

The participants were asked to describe how they spoke in their own words.

How do you describe your accent: "Hull accent (British)."

Have there been other influences on the way you speak: Not Given

Do you have skills in languages other than English?: Yes

Other languages: French

About this interview
GEMMA: Specially on the word 'yes' or if I'm just talking to my friend or like my teacher who I know quite well, I'll just go 'yeah, yeah' and my mum's going 'Yesss! Yesss!' I'm like 'shhh I'm just talking' but she will pull me up on it all the time.
More about the speech in this clip

Jonnie Robinson, Curator, English accents and dialects, British Library Sound Archive, writes

The accent of the city of Hull is extremely distinctive, albeit arguably less well-known than some other urban accents of the UK. This probably explains why Gemma feels she is constantly made aware of certain unusual features of her accent. The vowel sound she uses in the words holiday, make, they and in citing the letter 'a', along with the vowel sound she uses in the name Martin are characteristic features of most Yorkshire accents. However, the vowel sound she uses in the word word probably sounds like that of a speaker on Merseyside to the uninitiated, but is in fact typical of speech on Humberside and in other parts of East Yorkshire as far north as Middlesbrough.

Most intriguingly, however, the feature that Gemma claims receives most interest outside Hull is the vowel she uses in the words go, no and in the phrase how many o's in that. This is in fact a recent innovation among young female speakers in Humberside that's apparently spreading rapidly to other parts of Yorkshire. This phenomenon is known among linguists as GOAT-fronting - a reference to the fact that the vowel in words such as goat is articulated with the main body of the tongue pushed further forward in the mouth than is the case with a more traditional Yorkshire pronunciation. Older Humbersiders are likely to pronounce the word code in much the same way an RP speaker (someone with a regionally non-specific or 'prestige' accent) might pronounce cord, while young female speakers in Hull are increasingly pronouncing this similarly to RP curd. Confusion is, of course, avoided locally as the word curd would be pronounced like RP cared in a Hull accent!

GOAT-fronting is a fascinating phenomenon specifically because it illustrates that although English accents are changing, they are not all changing in the same direction or at the same pace. In fact, all languages and dialects change over time and vary across space. Some changes are national and tend to result from pressure towards standardisation and conformity, but against this there is a resistance to abandoning speech patterns that reinforce local identity and even, as here, a pressure to adopt new localised linguistic forms.

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